12 best al fresco afternoon teas
Why not take your scones and tea in the sunshine darlings? We've scoured the counties for the best outdoors teas, from rustic farm tables to pinkies-out palaces. Chink chink
Tea in the Park
If you want a little more privacy for your afternoon tea, you should be able to find a quiet spot in Blenheim’s 2,000 acres of parkland. The new summer picnics offer either a ploughman’s, a veggie lunch or an afternoon tea box including finger sandwiches, pork and apple stubbie roll, fruit scone (clotted cream and jam, natch), cakes and bottled water – so you’d better pack your own thermos if you want a cuppa (but at £29.50 for two it’s one of the best value options). You can upgrade to include a bottle of bubble for £69.50 (no messing with a single glass here!) or take tea on the terrace if you can’t bear to be without the china and silverware. The new Churchill Afternoon Tea (£72 for two) to accompany Blenheim’s exhibition about the former PM, includes Pol Roger Brut Réserve (his favourite Champers), Welsh rarebit and pickled onion, Chicken and mushroom pie and Smoked salmon and caviar muffin, various cakes and scones, and Winston Churchill fruit cake. They’ll be rolling you out after that one…
Blenheim Palace, Woodstock
Tea on the Farm
The Cartshed is tucked away in an old farm yard complex in the pretty Oxfordshire village of Preston Crowmarsh (leave time en route to drive slowly through and have a good snoop at the gorgeous houses). The Cartshed used to be advance bookings only for afternoon tea but now takes walk-ins (though it’s super busy at weekends). The afternoon tea menu is available all week, (outdoors tables — and rambling chickens — only available at weekends). It’s served all day until 3pm (scone for breakkie? Yes please!). At £14, or £20 to include a bottle of Prosecco (steady on… that’s a mini bottle), it’s one of the best value around. Plus you know the scones and choice of cake or savoury bake from the counter will be freshly made and with unlimited hot drinks (including their top notch coffee) it’s a good ‘un. The sarnie choice includes pastrami, chopped slaw, Monterey Jack cheese and pickled cucumber and the more trad roasted ham, cheese and mustard mayo. Book advance online. Tables tend to be more available after 2pm if you want a walk-in.
The Cartshed, Preston Crowmarsh
Tea with a View
Vaults is right in the heart of cobbledy Oxford off the High in the 700 year old University Church and has tables overlooking the Radcliffe Camera. Talk about atmospheric – plus, its vision is to create a ‘socially positive café’ with sustainability at its heart, so it’s an ethical afternoon tea to boot. Suppliers include Willowbrook Farm in Kidlington and Worton Organic Garden. A home-made scone served with Upper Norton clotted cream, home-made jam and a pot of leaf tea costs £6.40 and you can add a cake (hey, why not) for £3.80, so it’s super affordable too. Open Mon-Sun, 9am- 5:30pm, with afternoon tea from 2.30pm.
Vaults Garden Cafe, Oxford
Tea by the River
Afternoon tea on a terrace floating on the Thames… there’s no better way to get a duck’s eye view of watery Oxford (no life jackets necessary… we promise it doesn’t wobble!). The Folly afternoon tea costs £21.95 per person including homemade scones, finger sandwiches including cucumber and creme fraiche, and chicken and tarragon mayonnaise plus a selection of cakes and tea or coffee – add a glass of Prosecco (could help with the sea legs?!) for £29.95. Afternoon tea is served 2:30pm-3:45pm.
The Folly, Oxford
Tea in the Cotswolds
You can take the Minster Mill tea in the terrible Cotswoldy stone surroundings of the hotel terrace, or – our favourite option – opt for a picnic hamper and pitch up in your own private picnic spot. The hamper includes freshly baked warm fruit and plain scones, assorted homemade cakes and pastries, strawberry and raspberry preserves, clotted cream and of course sandwiches including Burford Brown egg mayonnaise – what else?! The tea and coffee is served in a flask to keep it warm… it’s the little touches! Served Weds – Sun 12.30pm – 5.30pm. Full Afternoon Tea £29 (£40 if you want a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Champagne.
Minster Mill, Minster Lovell
Tea in the Garden
The Summer Afternoon Tea at The Ivy Marlow Garden is sooooo totally quintessential English summer on a plate, or rather, cake stand. Marinated cucumber and dill finger sandwich on basil bread anyone? And for £24.95 you’ll also get sweet goodies such as a lemon and raspberry doughnut with pink lemonade (it’ll be like you’ve dropped into tea with Alice and the White Rabbit…) plus hot drink, or obligatory upgrade to the champers for £33.95.
The Ivy Marlow Garden
Tea amid the Dreaming Spires
The Ashmoleon Rooftop Restaurant is open again and serving its fabulously presented tiered teas with a view of Oxford’s college spires. There’s the standard afternoon tea, a vegan version, and even one for the under 12s (£12.50). You can book ahead or try your luck with a walk-in. Expect tiered parcels of deliciousness including asparagus and parmesan tart, fruit scones, Victoria sandwich, blackcurrant jam and elderflower fresh cream and assorted macaroons for £25 per person (£5 extra for bubbles).
Ashmoleon Rooftop Restaurant, Oxford
Tea on the Terrace
Afternoon tea at Taplow House Hotel is a pinkie finger-raising affair with exquisite little cakes baked by the in-house pastry chef. It’s a classic line up of finger sandwiches, plain and raisin scones, and homemade cakes, served in the gorgeous grounds of the Georgian country house hotel. Served 12:30pm – 5:30pm 7 days a week, £29 or £40 with Champagne.
Taplow House, Berry Hill
Tea at the Shops
If you usually just whizz into Pret for a coffee while at Bicester Village, there’s now a whole new level of refreshment indulgence to enjoy. This is the little sister outpost of the gorgeously elegant Wolseley on Piccadilly (where I spent about 90 percent of my working day in ‘meetings’ in a previous life). Champagne afternoon tea comes in at £19.95 and it’s available anytime from midday – 6pm so you can definitely fit in some ruinous designer shopping around it.
Café Wolseley, Bicester Village
Tea overlooking the Thames
This exquisite Grade II-listed, late Victorian five star country house hotel just outside Marlow serves a classic afternoon tea with petite sandwiches, scones, homemade cake, Cornish clotted cream, plus stunning views of the Thames if you eat out on the terrace. Afternoon tea is £30pp, or you can upgrade to Champers for an extra £10 (there’s a kiddie offering for £15 too). If it’s good enough for George and Amal Clooney’s wedding party, it’s certainly good enough for us. Reservations essential. Served Mon-Sat 2-4pm, Sun 3.30-4.30pm
Danesfield House, Marlow
Tea for Two
At this exceedingly English tea room in the middle of Chipping Norton your scones come served on gorgeous mismatched vintage china and cake stands. Choose from a classic Luxury Afternoon Tea (£18) with finger sandwiches and dainty petit fours, or the Cotswolds Afternoon Tea (£15) with chef’s sandwiches and wedges of cake from the selection of the day. You’ll be lucky to bag one of a handful of outside tables, but they’re perfectly sized for an intimate tea for two.
The Tea Set, Chipping Norton
Tea by the Pool
About as Crazy as genteel Beaconsfield can cope with, with its opulent velvets, superglam mirrors, stone-lined pool, and huge sweeping decadent bar. Those who frequent the Crazy Bear for its cocktails might be interested to know that it also serves a traditional ‘tear drop’ sandwiches, tea cakes, scones and pots of tea in the English restaurant every day 12pm-5pm for £35.95 per person. Add a tenner for a glass of champagne to wash it down with.
Crazy Bear, Beaconsfield
Nuts about scones? Devour our entire Muddy section dedicated to afternoon tea
Have we missed off your favourite alfresco afternoon tea spot? Let us know below!